Wiener Letters


The Louis Dembitz Brandeis Medal, issued in 1971


The first letter (12/9/70) indicates that “the quotation of Justice Brandeis, which is to go on the reverse side of the medal … is: ‘Make real the brotherhood of man’.” And then Gerta reveals that “My brother sent it to me with a sketch of how he wished to have it placed.”


Gerta’s brother, Victor Ries had designed the first medal issued by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 1969, honoring Judah Magnes, and more significantly, Victor created the unique rounded-trapezoidal shape of the medals, that distinguish this series. But the fact that Gerta used the quote and design of her brother, did not prevent him from suggesting (contained in a letter dated May 24, 1971 from Seymour Fromer, Director of the Judah Magnes Museum) “removing the heavy lines and moving the words THE and OF MAN to the left or off center.” Victor also suggested “to move the face (of Brandeis) to the right … As it stands now the middle is not acceptable.” Gerta did not make these changes, and it was nevertheless acceptable, as Gerta wrote (2/20/71) to Mel Wacks: “I just want to tell you how glad I was that my work for the Brandeis medal pleased you.”



Sketches by Seymour Fromer of design changes suggested by Victor Ries (5/24/71)


But Ms. Wiener was by no means finished with the Brandeis models, indicating (4/9/71) that “this is the plasticene version and will be sharpened in the plaster of Paris.” Later the same month, Gerta typed out her thoughts about the Brandeis medal, as was requested by Mr. Wacks. In part, she wrote: “It is, of course, always a challenge to have to do a good portrait of a person you have never seen and will never be able to see – painting or sculpture – as a portrait is, or should be much more than a literal rendition of features.  I had to rely on whatever kind of photos of his head I could obtain, and they were none too good for my purpose. They showed him either too young or too old, and had the lack of character of many newspaper portraits of prominent people. But having a strong mental image of the man from what he had been and said helped me, I hope, to express some of his personality through my work.”



Brandeis original clay models for obverse and reverse (4/9/71)


Gerta was never very happy with the way many of her medals turned out, and she anticipates problems with her very first medal (11/14/71): “I was glad to hear that the very particular gentleman from the ‘Medallic Arts’ (sic) had nothing to say about my design and its execution, so I hope I’ll feel the same when I see their work!”


Brandeis bronze medal


Go to page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Next Page

QuizzesnominationNewsShopAbout JAHF
© 2000-2011 Jewish-American Hall of Fame © 2012 American Numismatic Society All Rights Reserved
Click here to e-mail us